Out with the Old, In with Clipper

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Several years ago, San Francisco bay area began testing a transit fare smart card which could be used across different agencies and fare systems. Translink never lived up to the promise and only rolled out to a few transit system, including BART, Caltrain and Muni. Translink was also never fully integrated into the Muni fare system with only a few gates in the subway supporting it and validators on the busses seemed broken as often as they were working. BART even recommended keeping a backup BART pass when it launched Translink.
On June 26 though, Translink relaunched as Clipper and work is underway to make Clipper the easy to use transit smart card we’ve been promised. Muni Metro riders may have noticed work on the subway station faregates, this is prep work for replacement with new faregates designed specifically for Clipper. In fact, the new fare gates will no longer accept change, only the plastic Clipper smart cards or a new, limited use, paper ticket similar to BART which can be loaded with credit for multiple Muni rides.
The new system has many advantages, Clipper (as with Translink) can be set up to automatically load a monthly Muni fastpass, or monthly passes for other supported transit agencies as well as storing a cash value that can be used on any system. Mine for example contains my Muni pass as well as credit I use on BART instead of using a separate BART pass. There are many other advantages to the system, discounts will be handled automatically and lost cards can be replaced without loosing the stored credit.
With the transition to Clipper, the paper fastpass will be phased out in October and riders will need to acquire a new card before then. Clipper cards are normally $5, but for a limited time during this transition the fee is being waved. More information about the Muni transition and how to order a free card can be found at the SFMTA’s Clipper web page or you can also get a free card at one of the following times and locations:

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Existing Translink cards will continue to work without need for replacement.

Comments: 4

  1. What’s the MSR’s view that certain F-Market cars don’t have the Clipper equipment installed (all non-Milan and PCC vehicles)? Should they be installed or should Muni find an alternate way?

  2. I got my clipper card and put some Muni credits on it. So, when I board a bus, and put the card against the machine, will the driver give me a paper transfer? Or does the card keep track of the time remaining on my fare?

  3. Akit, SFMTA has opted not to install Clipper equipment on cable cars and instead given conductors handheld scanners. To my knowledge all of the vintage streetcars currently without Clipper are also staffed with both an operator and conductor who could validate cards the same way if they choose not to (or cannot easily) install the boxes onboard. We’re likely not going to take any official position as an organization as long as SFMTA has a solution which works.
    Dale, you will not need a paper transfer with Clipper. As you suspect, when you board and tap your card against the reader it’s digitally time stamped with the time it’s valid until.

  4. Akit,
    The primary issue with vintage streetcars and Clipper revolves around power supply. As the vintage streetcars are renovated, one by one, they’re being fitted with low-voltage power supplies. These are used for numerous purposes, such as powering radios, GPS systems, and switch controls. MSR has no objection to installing Clipper scanners on any streetcar with the power supplies to support it. Similar scanners are in use on the antique trams of Lisbon, for example. In the interim, as Jamison points out, conductors on streetcars without low-voltage power could use the same hand-held scanners as are planned for cable car conductors.

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